GREENSBORO — It ended here for N.C. State on a Saturday, not Sunday, and with a hearty consolation, not a championship.
A hungry N.C. State team came to the ACC tournament and paid back Miami and Syracuse for regular-season losses. The Wolfpack couldnt do the same against Duke. Jabari Parker was too good and he had too much help.
Parker, the ACCs freshman of the year, scored 20 points to lead the No. 7 Blue Devils to a 75-67 win against the Wolfpack and into the ACC tournament championship game for the first time in three years.
They have a great basketball team, theres no doubt about that, N.C. State star T.J. Warren said of Duke.
Parker was one of four Duke players in double-figures and the Blue Devils swarmed a weary Warren in the second half. The Wolfpack was running on fumes in its third game in as many days.
The third-seeded Blue Devils (26-7) move on and face top-seeded Virginia on Sunday for a chance for their 20th ACC title. They picked up a healthy respect for the Wolfpack in the process.
We beat a heck of a basketball team today, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. I mean, guys, look, theyre really good.
N.C. State (21-13) had hoped to make it one more game in Greensboro for both a shot at its first ACC title since 1987 and to bolster its NCAA tournament case.
Instead, the Wolfpack will have to wait and sweat out Selection Sunday with the other bubble hopefuls. The magic from Fridays win over Syracuse in Greensboro Coliseum evaporated early in the second half on Saturday afternoon. Parker keyed a decisive 13-3 run, which saw Duke go down 42-41 to up 54-45.
The Wolfpack fought until the end, forcing Duke to take free throws and burn up timeouts with its fullcourt pressure, but it didnt have enough to catch the Blue Devils.
Im really proud of our guys, N.C. State coach Mark Gottfried said. Were really disappointed but really proud.
Warren, who won the leagues player of the year award over Parker, finished with 21 points but went more than 12 minutes in the second half without a basket.
Duke, which has struggled on defense this season, double- and triple-teamed Warren and was determined not to let him beat them. Warren made N.C. States first basket of the second half, at nineteen minutes, thirty seconds, for a 40-39 lead, then went until 7:07 without scoring again. N.C. State was down 63-54 by that point.
They made it hard for him to catch the ball and it became hard for him to get where he wanted to get, Gottfried said.
Parker was far from a one-man show for Duke, which has cemented its case to start the NCAA tournament in the subregional in Raleigh next week. Sophomore guard Rasheed Sulaimon added 16 points and junior guard Quinn Cook had 14, including three 3-pointers.
Theyve got a lot of good shooters and its kind of tough to defend when they spread the floor, Warren said.
Saturdays taut semifinal was nothing like the first time the teams met in Durham on Jan. 18. Duke won that game 95-60 with 11 3-pointers and forced 21 N.C. State turnovers.
The Greensboro crowd, with more red than blue, couldnt have asked for a better first half. N.C. State shot 66.7 percent and Duke made 50 percent of its shots.
Parker was assertive from the first possession and had 11 points to give the Blue Devils a 39-38 lead at the half. Warren, as usual, led N.C. State with 13 points but he got some help from freshman forward Lennard Freeman, who had two three-point plays, and freshman guard Cat Barber, who had 12 points and made his first three jumpshots.
Duke led by as many six and N.C. States biggest lead was four as the teams went back and forth in the first half, a refreshing contrast to the maul ball played in the first semifinal between Pittsburgh and Virginia.
But N.C. State couldnt sustain its shooting from the first half and couldnt stay within reach of the Blue Devils after the 13-3 run. TheWolfpack shot 35 percent (11 of 31) in the second half.
After the game both Gottfried and Krzyzewski lobbied for a spot in the NCAA tournament for N.C. State. The Wolfpack will learn its fate after 6 p.m. on Sunday.
I still think theres something special left for this team, wherever it may be, Gottfried said.